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Triathletes ready to swim, ride, run their way around Tokyo

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Commonwealth Games medallists Ashleigh Gentle, Jake Birtwhistle, Matt Hauser and Aaron Royale headline the Australian Olympic Triathlon team of six heading to Tokyo.

Gold Coast 2018 mixed relay gold medallists Ashleigh Gentle, Jake Birtwhistle and Matt Hauser, Glasgow 2014 bronze medallist Aaron Royle and Jaz Hedgeland and Emma Jeffcoat who will all make their Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Gentle and Royle will compete in their second Games after making their debut in Rio in 2016, whilst Birtwistle, Hedgeland and Jeffcoat will all make their Olympic debut.

The triathlon team announcement takes the number of Commonwealth Games Australia alumni members to 122 who will don the green and gold in Japan.

On top of their individual events, two women and two men will be selected to contest the mixed team relay in the event’s Olympic debut, an event Australia won at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Australia is the only country to secure the maximum six quota spots for Tokyo, with Australian athletes consistently performing at the top levels of international triathlon.

Birtwhistle was the only male to win two World Triathlon Series races in 2019, Gentle has 11 World Triathlon event wins and 33 podiums, Hauser is a world junior champion and world and Commonwealth Games Team Relay champion, Hedgeland was recently crowned Oceania champion and Royle and Jeffcoat are world championships mixed team relaylay medallists.

Gentle joins Manchester 2002 representative Loretta Harrop (2000, 2004) and Erin Densham (2008, 2012) as a two-time Olympian behind recent Triathlon Hall Of Fame inductee Emma Moffat (2008, 2012, 2016) as the sport’s only triple Olympian.

While Royle joins Manchester bronze medallist Peter Robertson (2000 and 2004), Courtney Atkinson (2008, 2012) and Melbourne 2006 gold medallist Brad Kahlefeldt (2008, 2012) as the fourth male two-time Olympic triathlete.

In Rio, Royle finished in ninth place becoming the fifth Australian alongside Manchester 2002 silver medallist Miles Stewart (6th in Sydney), Greg Bennett (4th in Athens), Melbourne 2006 representative Simon Thompson (10th in Athens) and Glasgow bronze medallist Ryan Bailie (10th in Rio) to place inside the top ten.

The 31-year-old Royle, who had travelled from Girona in Spain to the French Pyrenees for an altitude training camp, admits he was having a restless sleep the night he was due to find out the team.

“Our call was set for 7:30am so it’s fair to say I had a pretty restless sleep that night,” said Royle.

“Obviously I was over the moon, ecstatic, stoked or many other similar descriptive words, but mainly I felt very relieved and proud to hear the words ‘you will be nominated to the Australian Olympic Team.’

“It’s a privilege and an honour to be able to do so and I’m looking forward to being able to do this in Tokyo with my teammates in July.”

Newcastle local Royle is the first to admit his five-year journey between Rio and Tokyo has had its challenges.

“Injuries, changing training locations and coaches, having to overcome many days of self doubt, asking ‘Am I past my best, do I still have room to improve?’ type of self doubt. Ultimately I learnt to find joy in the struggle and to embrace this journey.”

Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo Ian Chesterman congratulated the triathletes on their selection.

“It’s fantastic to announce Emma, Jaz, Jake and Matthew to their first Olympics and to welcome Ashleigh and Aaron back to the Australian Olympic Team,” Chesterman said.

“These athletes have shown tremendous perseverance and grit to make it through the challenges of the pandemic and to secure their place at the Tokyo Games.

“I’m particularly excited to see the team compete in the Olympic debut of the Mixed Relay, the team element has brought out fantastic performances from Australian athletes and I’m sure they will represent the country proudly again in Tokyo.”

“Thank you to Triathlon Australia for helping these athletes realise their Olympic dream, and to the families, friends, teammates, coaches and supporters who have been there with the athletes every step of the way.”

The Triathlon competition will run from 26-27 and 31 July at the Odaiba Marine Park.

Name Event Age State Olympics Experience Commonwealth Games Experience
Jacob Birtwhistle Men's Triathlon Individual 26 TAS Debut 2018 - Mixed Relay - Gold, Individual - Silver
Ashleigh Gentle Women's Triathlon Individual 30 QLD 2nd (2016) 2018 - Mixed Relay - Gold, Individual - 5th; 2014 - Individual - 9th
Matthew Hauser Men's Triathlon Individual 23 QLD Debut 2018 - Mixed Relay - Gold, Individual - 4th
Jaz Hedgeland Women's Triathlon Individual 26 WA Debut
Emma Jeffcoat Women's Triathlon Individual 26 NSW Debut
Aaron Royle Men's Triathlon Individual 31 NSW 2nd (2016) 2014 - Mixed Relay - Bronze, Individual - 8th

With thanks Australian Olympic Committee and Triathlon Australia.

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